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Award-Winning Veteran Journalist Jim Lehrer to Give 2010 Sammons Media Ethics Lecture

Executive editor and PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer gives 11th annual Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture

Jim LehrerAward-winning journalist Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of the PBS NewsHour, will give the eleventh annual Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics at SMU. The lecture is at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 6, in Caruth Auditorium, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. The event is free; however, tickets are required and must be reserved in advance by calling the Meadows Box Office at 214-768-2787. The box office is open 12-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Sammons Lecture Series is presented by the Division of Journalism at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

Jim Lehrer’s 35-year career with PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) has made him one of the world’s most well known journalists. He is also familiar to viewers of presidential debates: in the last six presidential elections, Lehrer moderated 11 of the nationally televised candidate debates, including the 2008 debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

After graduating from college and serving for three years as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, Lehrer began his journalism career in Dallas. From 1959 to 1966, he was a reporter for The Dallas Morning News and then the Dallas Times Herald. He was also a political columnist at the Times Herald for several years and in 1968 became the city editor.

Lehrer’s newspaper career led him to public television, first in Dallas, as KERA-TV’s executive director of public affairs, on-air host and editor of a nightly news program. He moved to Washington with PBS in 1972, teaming with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Senate Watergate hearings. They began in 1975 what became The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, a half-hour program that won more than 30 awards for journalistic excellence over the next seven years. In 1983, Lehrer and MacNeil launched The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, the first 60-minute evening news program on television. When MacNeil retired in 1995, the program was renamed The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In 2009, the program title changed to PBS NewsHour to reflect the program’s expanded role as the hub of news and public affairs programming on PBS, both online and on air.

Lehrer and MacNeil are partners in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a co-producer of PBS NewsHour and producer of other programs and series for public, commercial and cable television – several of which Lehrer has hosted. The most recent was the 2001 Emmy Award-nominated “Debating Our Destiny: Forty Years of Presidential Debates,” in which Lehrer interviewed former presidential and vice presidential candidates about their debate experiences.

Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards for journalism, including a presidential National Humanities Medal in 1999. That year he was also inducted into the Television Hall of Fame with MacNeil. He has won two Emmys, the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, and the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, among others, and in 1991 was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In addition, Lehrer has written 20 novels, two memoirs and three plays. His latest novel, Super, published by Random House in April 2010, is a story of celebrity and murder aboard the Santa Fe Railroad’s famous Super Chief, known as “The Train of the Stars” during Hollywood’s heyday. His first novel, Viva Max!, the story of a platoon of modern Mexican soldiers who attempt to re-take the Alamo, was made into a comedy movie in 1969 starring Jonathan Winters and Peter Ustinov.

A native of Wichita, Kansas, Lehrer received an A.A. degree from Victoria College in Texas and a B.J. from the University of Missouri.

The Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture Series in Media Ethics is funded by a generous endowment from the Rosine Foundation Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, at the recommendation of Mary Anne Sammons Cree of Dallas. The series is named in honor of her mother, Rosine Smith Sammons, who graduated from SMU in the 1920s with a degree in journalism. The endowment will provide permanent resources for the Meadows School of the Arts to present annual lectures focusing on media ethics.

The Division of Journalism, under Belo Distinguished Chair Tony Pederson, offers concentrations in all media – broadcast, print and Internet – through its convergence journalism program. With the help of a gift from The Belo Foundation, the Division has become one of the few journalism schools in the country to provide hands-on experience through a new digital newsroom, television studio and Web site.

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